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Legislators Call for More Accountability in Colorado's Conservation Easement Tax Credit

For Immediate Release
March 6, 2008

Contact:
Jim Wyerman
Director, Communications & Development
Phone: 202-638-4725 x 310
E-mail: jwyerman@lta.org

Legislators call for more accountability in Colorado's conservation easement tax credit
Vow to "make a successful program stronger"

Denver - House Majority Leader Alice Madden (D-Boulder), Rep. Bernie Buescher, (D-Grand Junction) and Rep. Kathleen Curry (D-Gunnison) will join Senator Jim Isgar (D-Hesperus) tomorrow in introducing legislation to add an extra layer of accountability for state conservation easement tax credits.

Scheduled to be introduced Friday as House Bill 1353, the measure will build upon changes enacted last year in HB07-1361, which increased the standards, transparency and accountability for the tax credits.

Conservation easements are sold or donated by private landowners to nonprofits or government agencies to guarantee that a parcel of land will never be developed.  Property owners may continue using their land as it has been used but give up the rights to sell the land to developers in the future or to develop it themselves.

The drafting of HB 1353 was guided by the Colorado Conservation Easement Tax Credit Task Force, led by Rep. Madden.  The 2007 task force included legislators, landowners, state officials and land trust representatives.

"Colorado has benefited from conservation easements in every corner of the state that protect farms, ranchland, wildlife habitat, scenic and historic landscapes and other unique natural lands.  These are places that could have been lost forever to development without the state tax credits," said Rep. Madden.  "Our goal is to make this successful program stronger." 

"Conservation easements are a cost-effective way to safeguard Colorado's agricultural traditions and beautiful places.  This bill will ensure that holders of conservations easements are truly protecting property and accurately assessing the value of conservation," said Rep. Buescher.

Attention TV news departments: extensive B-roll video of Colorado lands preserved by conservation easements is available from Eric Anderson (303-892-9100 ext. 12 or EA@publicpersuasion.com)
 
HB 1353 has five main components:
 
1. Increased easement appraisal accountability
The bill will require appraisers to file conservation easement appraisals with the Colorado Division of Real Estate which will review the information. If wrongdoing is found, the Board of Real Estate Appraisers may impose suspensions or other penalties. These appraisers also will face education and experience requirements.
 
2. Conservation easement holder certification
A state certification program for groups that hold conservation easements will be established by the Division of Real Estate and the Conservation Easement Oversight Commission. This program will establish minimum qualifications for these groups, looking at their process for approving easements, their governance and their financial strength. Only landowners who work with certified groups will qualify for the tax credit.
 
3. More effective oversight
The Department of Revenue will be allowed to share information with other state agencies, and the Conservation Easement Oversight Commission, to ensure it can address concerns about information contained in a tax credit application.
 
4. Conservation Easement Oversight Commission
This new commission will advise the Division of Real Estate and Department of Revenue.
 
5. One-year holding requirement
The bill limits conservation contributions for properties held less than one year.

Additional photos are available; e-mail pressroom@lta.org

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